Lead Photo: The Lee Civic Center could have a very different future. (CREDIT: WINK News)
FUTURE OF LEE CIVIC CENTER IN QUESTION
On Friday, Lee County government gave the go-ahead for two different options for the Lee County Civic Center — a proposal to turn the area into a hotel and retail space or a plan to keep it the way it is with improvements made to the existing building. The Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair has been a staple at the civic center for years. Kitson and Partners, the developer behind Babcock Ranch, wants to knock down the existing facility and transform the 100-acre land of the Lee Civic Center into a hotel with retail space. Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman said he favors the plan to fix the civic center, but he stressed that the county is a long way from making a decision. Both proposals now go to the county’s evaluation committee, WINK News reports.
MORTGAGE RELIEF AVAILABLE FOR CAPE CORAL HOMEOWNERS
The city of Cape Coral has $680,000 to give to eligible households who qualify for up to six months of emergency assistance. The application, posted Monday on the city’s website, must be submitted before March 26.
SPRING BREAK COULD BE BOOST TO SOUTHWEST FLORIDA ECONOMY
The Tourist Development Council is hoping for a big boom in spring break revenue that will help boost the Southwest Florida economy. Revenue from the bed tax, a 5% tourist tax collected from hotels and short-term rentals, was down by 33% last March compared to March 2019. It got worse as the pandemic halted travel and vacations. Bed tax numbers in April 2020 dropped by 88% compared to April 2019. Local hotels and restaurants are anticipating large crowds compared to this time last year for spring break. They have rolled out safety measures they hope will attract more visitors. Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman said he is confident this year’s numbers will bring a boost to the economy and more importantly, people will feel safe, WINK News reports.
RIBBON-CUTTING TODAY FOR LITTLETON ROAD-KISMET PARKWAY REALIGNMENT
Ribbon-cutting is 10 a.m. today for the newly constructed Littleton Road-Kismet Parkway realignment, a Lee County Commission priority and a joint venture with the city of Cape Coral. The cost of about $2 million was paid through impact fees and contributions from Cape Coral. The construction project realigned Kismet Parkway and Littleton Road at NE 24th Avenue. The new Littleton Road alignment is a four-lane divided roadway. The ceremony, which will feature brief remarks by Lee commissioners and other officials, will be on the east end of Old Littleton Road in North Fort Myers.
LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS LAUNCHING NEW AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS TO HELP STUDENTS’ GRADES
The Lee County School District is launching two new programs to help children struggling with their grades. One program called Connect with Lee is for any student K-12, and they don’t necessarily have to be struggling to take part in it. The program will be after school, for any student who has questions on classwork or homework. Connect with Lee’s one-on-one sessions with teachers would go from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. The second program, Back on Track, is specifically for struggling students or those who need to make up credits, WINK News reports.
CHARLOTTE COUNTY INMATES RECEIVING JOB TRAINING THROUGH NEW PROGRAM
A new program at the Charlotte County Jail will allow inmates to receive workplace training twice a week for six weeks. During that time, they will focus on basic job skills for management, retail and internships. Inmates with an education are 40% less likely to end up back in jail, and 20% of that accounts for job training. The inmates have been very receptive to the program, which will give them a second chance when they re-enter society, said Charlotte County Sheriff’s Lt. Tabbatha Carter, who says the biggest hurdle for inmates after being released from jail is knowing where to start, WINK News reports.
SUFFOLK BEGINS BUILDING KEYBAY AT MOORINGS PARK GRANDE LAKE
Suffolk recently began construction of KeyBay at Moorings Park Grande Lake, a new luxury Life Plan Community in Naples. Moorings Park Grande Lake is a partnership between Moorings Park and London Bay Development Group. The architect is BSSW Architects. KeyBay includes 22 residences, featuring 20 Brook model floor plans and two seventh-floor penthouses, one of which is already sold. Residences range in size from 2,210 square feet to 3,230 square feet. Situated on 55 acres five miles from Fifth Avenue, Moorings Park Grande Lake combines amenities and healthcare and includes luxury residences with lake views overlooking Naples Grande Golf Course. Based on a preliminary study using the IMPLAN modeling, the project is estimated to have the following economic impact throughout the construction phase, which commenced in 2018 and will continue to the end of 2026: Construction impacts will be in excess of $549 million and will provide 4,798 jobs to the local economy; at the time of full operations employment in 2025, the project will have a positive economic impact by creating 189 jobs and over $23 million annually in total economic impact; and Total impact fees from the project are $3 million. Suffolk is also overseeing construction on Moorings Park Grande Lake Clubhouse for the same development team.
NAMI COLLIER COUNTY ACHIEVES NATIONAL ACCREDITATION
NAMI Collier County has achieved national accreditation for the fourth consecutive year through the New York-based Council on Accreditation (COA). NAMI Collier County’s mission is to improve the quality of life for individuals and families affected by serious mental illnesses through education, support and advocacy. Due to the pandemic slowing down processes, it took NAMI Collier County almost a full year to achieve accreditation from the independent, nonprofit, human services accrediting organization. Organizations pursue accreditation to demonstrate the implementation of best practice standards. COA evaluated all aspects of Nami Collier County’s programs, services, management, and administration.
NORMAN LOVE CONFECTIONS ROLLING OUT 2021 EASTER COLLECTION
Fort Myers-based Norman Love Confections is rolling out its limited-edition 2021 Easter Collection, which features 10 rich egg crèmes enveloped in white, dark and milk chocolate. In addition to perennial favorites such as strawberry, raspberry, cherry and passion fruit, the timeless collection includes vanilla, coffee, caramel, double dark chocolate and peanut butter. The holiday collection can be savored from March 22 to April 3 at Norman Love Confections’ chocolate salons in Fort Myers, Naples and Estero, as well as online.
KENDRA SCOTT POPPING UP THIS SPRING AT WATERSIDE SHOPS IN NAPLES
Kendra Scott is opening its newest pop-up store this spring at Waterside Shops in Naples. Upon opening in early May, the store will display Kendra Scott’s current collections, and Mother’s Day gifts just in time for the annual holiday. Loved by celebrities, Kendra Scott’s collections are iconic for their custom-created stone shapes, genuine materials and innovative design details. The store will also showcase the brand’s unique Kendra Scott Color Bar, offering shoppers an interactive experience to create customized jewelry in minutes and leave with it in hand. This will be Kendra Scott’s eighth store in Florida. Continuing the brand’s commitment to the local community, the Naples store will host a local non-profit during the grand opening weekend with 20% of sales going back to their cause. The Kendra Scott Waterside Shops store is located at 5485 Tamiami Trail N., Suite D-5.
LARC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR KEVIN LEWIS RETIRES
Lee Association of Remarkable Citizens (LARC) announces the retirement of Executive Director Kevin Lewis. Angela Katz, LARC’s director of development and communications, has been named interim executive director. Lewis was honored at the March 2 meeting of the Lee County Board of Commissioners for his 38 years of service to the citizens of Lee County. He has been executive director of LARC since 2016 and is a longtime leader and advocate for behavioral healthcare in Southwest Florida. Lewis served as president of SalusCare, which he shepherded into being when Lee Mental Health and Southwest Florida Addiction Services merged. Lewis also led Southwest Florida Addiction Services for nearly 27 years. While at LARC, Lewis worked with staff to evolve programs to meet the ever-changing needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, building on LARC’s 60-plus year history of advocacy, services, and support as an Arc chapter. Katz joined LARC in 2016. She created and championed an innovative new program at LARC – LAB: Learn, Achieve, Become – that offers an experiential learning environment that transforms traditional program areas into spaces for innovation, vocation, demonstration, and learning.
VILLAGE SCHOOL NAMES HEAD OF UPPER SCHOOL/ASSISTANT HEAD OF SCHOOL
The Village School of Naples, an independent school serving students in preschool through 12th grade, has appointed Nikki Belmarce-Sweeney as its new head of upper school/assistant head of school. In this role, she will oversee the school’s ninth through 12th-grade division and assist in all future strategic initiatives. Belmarce-Sweeney has more than 25 years of professional experience in the field of education. Most recently, she was director of innovation and education technology at the University School of Milwaukee. During her two-decade tenure there, she played an integral part in developing several of the independent prep school’s emerging programs. Belmarce-Sweeney earned a Master of Science degree in educational leadership and a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Cardinal Stritch University, a private Roman Catholic university in Milwaukee. She also has a Master of Education degree in educational technology from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
‘HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR HOME-OFFICE’ CLASS SET FOR MARCH 24
Marla Ottenstein, Naples’ Premier Professional Organizer and creator of Get Organized and Get Organized—In a Flash! columns, will present a class on how to organize your at-home office from 3-4:30 p.m. on March 24 at the FGCU Academy Naples campus. Participants may attend in person or online. In-person attendance will adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended guidelines. This class is designed to help small business owners who work out of their homes, as well as non-working individuals, create an efficient and effective at-home office. The lecture also includes a question-and-answer discussion. To register, click here or call 239-434-4737. The cost to attend is $30 or $25 for FGCU Academy members.
ANNUAL EMPLOYMENT LAW SEMINAR HELD MARCH 26
Boy Agnew Potanovic will host its annual seminar and networking event, “Proactive Workplace Solutions: An HR & Employment Law Seminar,” beginning at 7:30 a.m. on March 26 at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center at the Luminary Hotel. The all-day seminar was created for Southwest Florida employers and will feature sessions focused on proactive and cost-effective solutions to workplace legal issues. Topics include tips for navigating ADA/FMLA issues, employment law Q&A, expected changes in employment law under the new Biden administration, and a keynote speech on the importance of inspirational leadership during times of crisis by nationally recognized speaker Chip Madera. Registration is $75 for general admission and $50 for Boy Agnew Potanovic clients and includes a continental breakfast and plated lunch. Continuing education credits are pending from SHRM, HRCI and The Florida Bar. For more information, email email@example.com or click here.
Conservancy of Southwest Florida raises $1.4 million during Magic Under the Mangroves virtual gala
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s annual fundraising event, Magic Under the Mangroves, brought in $1.4 million on March 4 to support the Conservancy’s longstanding mission of protecting the water, land, wildlife and future in Southwest Florida. This year’s event, themed “The Magic Hour,” was chaired by Katrina Lundmark-Kash with Carol Walter serving as vice-chair. Held virtually this year due to the pandemic, the event was live-streamed from Keewaydin Island, where the Conservancy started in 1964 when a new road was planned to run through the heart of Rookery Bay. Since its inception 17 years ago, Magic has raised nearly $15 million. All funds are used to support local environmental causes.
Don’t be the last to know what’s happening in Southwest Florida. Sign up for our free daily newsletter, Gulfshore Business Daily, to stay connected.